November the tenth…

10 November 2017

My mother was married twice… the first time to Carl Goolsby Johnson. They had a son, Junior, who I knew as “Carl G”. Like all my other siblings, he was a dozen or more years older than me. IIRC she also bore a “blue baby” and I think there was a miscarriage as well.

Mother and Carl divorced long before I came to town… I never met Carl that I remember. Carl G. became part of the family of my father’s five children following the five’s mother’s death from cancer.

My father was a sharecropper when this story takes off, and they struggled in the hardscrabble world of North Georgia and eventually the iron works in Birmingham AL.

When Carl G. got old enough, he chose the Marine Corps as a path out of the poverty. He eventually came back to Birmingham for awhile.

I do not know if he was part of the Korean un-war or not. I dimly remember riding around in the olive-drab surplus panel truck (carry-all) he had before he  moved away to Louisiana. I am told I visited him in Metairie, but my only memory is the horror of a big bowl of crawfish presented as food.

He was not part of my life outside of a few old pictures I got from family members. He appeared and disappeared for visits, but we never got acquainted. I am told he liked me a lot.

When I got out of high school, I started junior college while holding down a job as a billing clerk on the nightshift for Baggett Transportation… that did not go well.

The image burned into my brain is the morning I rode my motorcycle to school, after his death the night before.

“He was my brother” was Simon and Garfunkel’s hit song reverberating in my crash helmet.

With the rest of the family in the back, in the middle of the night, he was asleep in the front passenger seat as his mother-in-law drove, and slammed into a bridge abutment. Right in the passenger side corner. It was some kind of early-sixties econocar.

Both of his daughters were severely injured, everybody else died.

Carl G. did everything you could expect of a man, and went far beyond to take care of two girls in difficult circumstances. The mother of those girls was a woman I took to be from the Philippines, and she was sometimes pretty shrill. She did not get what she expected from Carl G., and left him. Looking to give the girls a home, he married another woman, who was the eventual instrument of his destiny. He was a refrigeration tech in Jacksonville, mostly, like his father.

He was a proud Marine. He gave me the back-issues of “Leatherneck”.

I wish I had known him better.

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